Going Home

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Horror  |  House: Booksie Classic


An experiment in 'show and tell'. Pictures all sourced from Pixabay.com, CCO and free to use.

Submitted: May 14, 2018

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Submitted: May 14, 2018

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Going Home

 

There weren’t many of us, survivors of some nameless disaster. Those of us that did exist were too young to ask questions and were easily fobbed off with vague and meaningless explanations. Not one of us would have been five when that ‘disaster’ occurred. Most have long since moved on, after all, twenty years have now passed. Not many memories will have survived the course of time.

I’ve not forgotten though. In fact, over the last couple of years the need to know, to find out real answers, has only increased. Maybe now it has developed into an obsession. Irrational, I know, but I have got to go back. If only they will let me.

I don’t remember the town being this far away from other communities. I’m sure we had neighbouring villages, and there was a town we would go to once a month for items not available any nearer. They have all gone. Not one sign, one stone is left to show that they had ever even existed.

For a moment it makes me stop. Am I mad? Following some fictitious tale my mind has put together when trying to make sense of the nothingness?

I almost turn back but then I see it, that bit of rusted wire that seems to run across the road and last forever. Something is behind the wire. I know that now. Something that they want to keep hidden and be forgotten. Something that they want to lie out of existence. And that ‘something’ is the place that I call home.

Maybe I’d half suspected to come across this wire for I have cutters and thick gloves in the car. I clip it and pull at it, making enough clear space for my car to get through. Even though it is rusted, those barbs could easily shred my tyres, leave me nowhere with no one knowing where I am. Better to spend an extra few minutes being careful than to die of thirst and starvation, lost and alone.

Further on are the remnants of sentry boxes. They had armed guards here then. Were they keeping people in or out? I guess I’ll never really know but I suspect it was a bit of both. The barricades have rotted into just a heap of wood that I can push to the side and make my way forwards. On I go and soon I’m inside what was the village of my birth but is now....what? Deserted. Destroyed. Nothing more than a place of ghosts. I still have time to turn back, to walk away, but I won’t. I need to know the truth.

I walk down the street, looking for something to reach back through the years and jog my memory. Am I ever going to be able to find the right house amongst all the wreckage and debris? Something must be familiar, somewhere deep inside my mind.

All the streets are in the same condition, all reduced to rubble. I try to push my mind back over twenty years to find the paths I’d once walked. There are rusty signs on the corners; street names once upon a time. The writing has almost completely worn away, leaving just the odd stroke of a letter, a tiny scrap of paint. Would I have known the names anyway, being that young? Probably, but they have been unmentioned and forgotten for so very long that they are simply beyond the scope of my memory to bring them in to mind.

Down another street and something seems to click. Not where I am but where I’ve been. The click is almost silent, I don’t know what it is saying, but it is the first one I’ve heard. I turn, retrace my steps and stop outside a building, or rather what’s left of it.

Slowly, carefully, I step my way up the path to the entrance. There is no door, just a gaping gap where one had once stood. Am I sure this is the one? I put my hand on the door-frame and there is a vague familiar tingle. This is it! This is the house I was raised in for such a short time.

Even though I am now certain, I feel like an intruder. It was such a long time ago since I have been here. I have to push on forward if I really want to know and it’s too late to back off now.

The place is filthy, as derelict inside as it was out. But through all the dust, the broken furniture, the rotted carpets and curtains I notice that some of the windows have survived intact. The sun, strong enough to break through the grime, lights up something across the room. I move further in, determined to investigate.

The chair is still in one piece. Amazing in a setting of so much complete destruction. The paint has almost completely stripped off from the wood. I’m tired but I dare not take a seat. If I put even the slightest bit of weight on it I’m sure it will collapse, crumble to dust, even.

Instead I walk around it, trying to think, when I come upon a pair of boots. They are standing there neatly beside it. I wonder whether they were about to be put on or had just been removed. Whichever, this was one moment in time that has been captured and held on to.

The boots are flimsy now, cracked by time and molded by it too. A man’s boots, leather, sturdy, made for working in. Are they ones that had belonged to my father or to an invader, a hostile soldier, a complete stranger to me?

Think back, I tell myself. I am looking for any memories of a man that could have been my father. Nothing comes to mind except maybe a looming shadow of a person much taller than me. How old was he when I was born? How old was he when he died? If I knew one I could work out the other but these boots, they hold no clue.

There is nothing much downstairs. I rummage through the remnants of drawers but mostly the bits and pieces that are in one piece fall apart at my touch. My eyes spot what seems to be the corner of a photograph. I reach my fingers out, trembling, and carefully, carefully pull the picture back towards me.

Disappointment hits me like a ton of bricks. Had I really expected it to be complete? Expected, no, but certainly I had hoped. Just a corner, a fragment, a part of an old sweater that could be being worn by a male or a female, an adult or a child, there is just so little left to see. It is something though, so I will hang on to it.

Across the room there is a staircase. I’m going up there, I have to, whether it is safe or not.

 

The steps creak alarmingly beneath my feet, undecided whether they are going to support my weight or not. There is a rickety hand-rail, but I can see that it will tolerate no hands placed against it now. I so want to support myself for I am feeling quite weak with apprehension but I keep both of my hands firmly against my side.

What am I scared of finding? I don’t like to admit it to myself but the fact is I think there might be bodies up there. After all this time do I really want to meet my family as corpses, skeletons? Of course not, but I must go on.

There are three doorways at the top of the stairs. One has no door at all, while the others have doors sagging, hanging drunkenly open held in place by a single hinge. I try again to form some sort of picture from the past but there is nothing familiar.

The open door is, or perhaps ‘was’ would be a better way of putting it, to a small bathroom. The bath remains in place, caked in dirt and cracked, splintered. Any water put in it now would pour right out and drip straight through the hole in the floor beside it. The basin has collapsed from it’s place against the wall. Sharp pieces of porcelain have exploded everywhere. It’s sharp, I must be careful! How do I know that? Is it part of a memory?

The toilet itself is laying on it’s side, the cistern broken clean in half. No water then or this room would be flooded, but after twenty years I hardly expected to find any taps working. A cough doubles me over as I back out of the room. Where did that come from?

Two doors now. I peer around the edge of one. This must have belonged to my parents. There is a large bed that I can see, but there are no bodies. One side of the bed is precariously balanced over a huge hole in the floorboards. I want to go in, look around for any information about the people who had once dwelt in this house. My parents. But if I do I might cause the whole place to collapse. Better to leave it there in memoriam.

The other door has two small beds inside. One must have once been mine but the other? I must have had a brother or a sister. I wonder whether they were older or younger than me. Surely I would remember a sibling, wouldn’t I. This room I just have to enter. I push against the door and it falls with a bang to the floor.

That noise! So loud in all this silence. I’d not realised how much my head was hurting until I entered the room. I am planning on inspecting the beds, any toys or clothes I might be able to find but again my eye is caught by the light from a window, no glass left in this one. On the ledge, in a layer of thick dirt sits a teddy bear.

 

The poor thing reeks of dirt and dust, it’s stuffing must be nothing more than mold now. Thick cobwebs cover it from head to toe. Was it mine? It seems to stir up some memories; too deep to grab on to but they are there all the same. This was my bear! I know it.

An over-whelming sadness engulfs me when I realize that I cannot pick it up. My fingers would go through it, annihilate it. Better to examine it more closely from a distance and let it keep it’s watch. But it can’t, can it. It has no eyes. I look out from the window where it sits and the phrase; ‘If thy eye offendeth thee, pluck it out’ goes through my mind.

This window looks over the back of the house, the opposite side to which I entered. I am in no way anticipating the scene of absolute horror that greets me. Of course, the scattered pieces of graffiti maybe should have served as a warning to me, but they didn’t and the sight is like a kick in the guts.

I hurry from the room and down the stairs. I would run if it was safe to do so. I should be trying to get away from the scene, that grotesque picture, but I can’t flee. I need to know!

I dash through what was once a back door into an alleyway of sorts. It is covered in gas masks. Hundreds of them, piled one on top of the other. This is where it happened. This is where they died!

Should I find some consolation in the fact that they all went together, the inhabitants of this place? Not quite all, I remind myself. I and a few others survived. But only because we were not here, that’s how close to death I had been.

My head swims, and I reach out to a wall to steady myself. It comes away covered in a thick white dust. Bone dust! For there is not one single bone or skeleton to be seen. I hear them moaning, roaring around me, and I think that I am going to pass out.

A sister! I had a sister, probably slightly older than me. I’d like to lie and say I remembered her, I really would. Would you believe me if I did?

No, what tells me this is the chair, the doll. Bizarre it appears, just sitting there surrounded by gas masks. The doll seems to be pretty much intact, at least from this distance. Hair cascades from the back of a gas mask, too big for the face but much smaller than most. A child’s mask rather than an adults. Was it meant to be mine?

There are a few of them scattered around. Masks slightly smaller than the others, obviously no more effective in saving lives. There is nothing here now, just ghosts and the stench of death. They whisper to me though, those ghosts. There is, it seems, something that they want me to see.

There are no words as such, more of a pressure, a sense of being pulled somewhere. My head hurts and I reach up to massage it, only to have my hand come away holding a massive clump of my own hair. I vomit, can’t help it. But I’m careful to miss every single one of those masks. Even though things are starting to fit together in my head, I do not want to anger one of the ghosts.

Am I surprised when I see it? No, I’ve put too many clues together now. I know that I am dying from severe radiation exposure, just like everyone else here did. What does surprize me though are the signs on that box when I eventually get to it.

This was not a slaughter caused by a foreign country. This was no act of war from one nation to another. The signs of the box belong to our own army. Was it an accident? Or was it an intentional slaughter?

I will never get to know the answer to this question because it seems that I have come home to die.

 

 


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